Massive protests continue across Egypt following President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to immediately step down. The Egyptian army has called for the protests to end, but thousands remain in the streets. Violent clashes have just broken out between supporters of Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
On Tuesday, Egyptian President Mubarak bowed to the week-long Egyptian uprising by announcing he will leave office when his term ends in September. But that falls short of the protesters’ chief demand that he resign and even face trial. Speaking in a nationally televised address, Mubarak vowed to oversee the transition to a new president.
President Mubarak: “My primary responsibility now is to return security and stability to the country to produce a peaceful transition of power in an atmosphere that protects Egypt and Egyptians, leaving authority to whomever is chosen by the people in the next presidential elections. I say in all honesty, regardless of present events, I do not intend on running for another presidential term.”
But Mubarak’s speech left many unanswered questions. He did not rule out a presidential run by his son, Gamal Mubarak, and it is not clear how the Egyptian constitution would be changed to allow for opposition groups to run viable campaigns.
Mubarak spoke as millions of people took to the streets across Egypt Tuesday in the largest demonstrations against his government to date. Upwards of two million people were estimated to have packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Hundreds of thousands also turned out in Alexandria and a number of other Egyptian cities. Protesters vowed to stay in the streets until Mubarak steps down.
Dr. Osama Ghazali Harb, head of Egypt’s Opposition Democratic Front Party: “Of course it will succeed. This is a revolution in making. You are now watching a revolution where the world, it is waking. It is something rare in history. For the first time in Egyptian history, from Pharaohs ’til now, Egypt has a genuine revolution.”
In an address following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement, President Obama called for a transition to a new government. But he again refused to explicitly back demands for Mubarak’s immediate departure.
President Obama: “Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders; only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”
President Obama went on to praise the protest movement, calling it an “inspiration to the world.” But Obama made no mention of the U.S. government’s critical support of Mubarak’s regime over its entire 30 years.
Newly released lobbying records show just how close the U.S. government has been to the Mubarak regime. According to the Sunlight Foundation, nearly 250 meetings between Egyptian officials and U.S. lawmakers and their aides took place in the first seven months of 2010 alone. For years, Mubarak has employed a team of Washington-based lobbyists, including former Democratic Congressman Toby Moffett, former Republican Congressman Bob Livingston and Democrat Tony Podesta, whose brother John served as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. The Unites States also has close ties to Mubarak’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s former intelligence chief. Suleiman played a key role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program. He also underwent training in the 1980s at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Suleiman has been placed in charge of reaching out to Egyptian opposition groups.
The fallout from the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia continue to spread across the region. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, another key U.S. ally, said today he will not seek to extend his presidency when his current term ends in 2013. Saleh has ruled the Yemen for 32 years. Yemeni opposition groups are planning to a stage a large rally, dubbed a Day of Rage, on Thursday. On Tuesday, Jordanian King Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed a new prime minister.
Extreme weather is the story of the day across much of the United States. A massive winter storm has affected 100 million people from New Mexico to New England. Thousands of flights have been canceled. The National Weather Service issued storm watches, warnings and advisories in more than 30 states and blizzard warnings for eight. States of emergency were declared in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Many scientists have linked the extreme winter weather patterns to climate change. A recent study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found the amount of very heavy precipitation on the eastern seaboard from Washington, D.C., to Maine rose by 67 percent between 1958 and 2007.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are planning to introduce a bill today to ban the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. And in the Senate, a group of Democrats, led by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, have proposed a two-year moratorium on EPA attempts to regulate greenhouse gases.
Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote as early as today to repeal the healthcare bill passed last year. The vote is largely symbolic as the Republicans do not have enough votes to overturn the law. Meanwhile, the health bill law is coming under increasing attack on the state level after a federal judge ruled the law to be unconstitutional. Wisconsin’s attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, issued a statement Tuesday saying, “For Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead — unless and until it is revived by an appellate court.” He went on to say, “Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal health care law.” Officials in Idaho and Florida have also said the judge’s ruling gives them the freedom to stop the work they have begun to put the law into effect. But other states, including Georgia, Iowa and Mississippi, have expressed disagreement over the impact of the ruling.
Human Rights Watch has revealed elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces are operating a secret prison in Baghdad and torturing detainees at another. According to the organization, the Iraqi government has transferred more than 280 prisoners to a secret site in Camp Justice, an Iraqi-American military base in northwest Baghdad. The transfer took place just days before an international inspection team was to examine conditions at the prisoners’ previous location at Camp Honor in the Green Zone, where reports of torture have surfaced. Approximately 80 of the 280 prisoners held at the secret location have no access to attorneys or their families. Prison inspectors are not permitted to conduct visits to the facility. Human Rights Watch has urged the government to close the facilities or move them under the control of the justice system and open the locations for visits and inspections. Matthew Alexander, a former U.S. interrogator in Iraq, said torture is not the most effective method for retrieving information from prisoners.
Matthew Alexander: “Where I was, in Iraq, specifically, I heard foreign fighters who had come there to fight say time and time again that the reason they had come there to fight was because of pictures of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. So we know that torture inflames people, and to the point of violence, and it also is indicative of a state that’s abusive of its control over a population.”
More information has come to light about the Haitian man who died of cholera-like symptoms soon after he was deported from the United States. Thirty-four-year-old Wildrick Guerrier was deported on January 20 along with 26 other Haitians. He was one of the first Haitian immigrants to be sent back to Haiti since the Obama administration resumed deportations to Haiti last month. Guerrier was reportedly healthy when he left the United States but became sick after he was held in a Haitian jail cell with 17 other men. The cholera epidemic in Haiti has killed at least 4,000 people since October and has sickened 200,000 more.
The Washington Post has revealed new information about the military service of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army specialist who has been accused of leaking classified material to the online whistleblowing website WikiLeaks while he was stationed in Iraq. The Post reports a mental health specialist recommended that Manning not be deployed to Iraq, but his immediate commanders sent him anyway. Manning has been held in isolation at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia.
President Obama will formally sign papers today to ratify a new Russia-U.S. disarmament treaty. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, calls for the United States and Russia to cut their deployed arsenals to 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 missile silos and bombers each.
The sites of the 2012 Democratic and Republican conventions are set. Democrats will be gathering at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, while Republicans are set to meet at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.